India – Revolution Over The Top

By Pickle  June 6, 2019

Internet-led or OTT entertainment is clearly the new “adult” on the block. Having changed the way in which the world views films and TV, the internet has started changing the way India is entertained.

By Bobby Bedi

For over 70 years Indian entertainment has been living in its own world—a world of fantasy heroes and heroines who take entire populations into dreamlands and faraway lands. Their lives have never been the lives of real people, their clothes have never been the clothes of real people, their homes have never been real homes and their stories have always revolved around a single plot. For 70 years, we have largely been watching the story of the boy meeting the girl; getting the hots for her; surmounting the insurmountable obstacles that come in the form of villainous rivals or fathers; and finally living happily ever after. What held these stories together were a series of melodramatic events, jokes, songs, interesting locations and pure hero worship of their favorite stars. Occasionally, this mould was broken and whenever that happened, we coined phrases like off-beat, parallel or art cinema to explain the change. Even in the telling of history we managed to completely distort the facts and convince audiences of stories that we wished had happened, rather than talk of reality.

Not anymore. Internet-led or OTT entertainment is clearly the new “adult” on the block. Having changed the way in which the world views films and TV, the internet has started changing the way India is entertained.

Three major changes have occurred across the world of entertainment. Firstly, the duration of what we watch has changed from fixed slots of film and TV to fully flexible durations that can be just a few minutes long (user generated content) to several hours long for the binge watchers. There is no pandering to Advertising breaks, so the experience is seamless. Secondly, the screen size has changed. Cinema screens remain, but home viewing ranges from six inches to sixty inches and from headphones to surround sound. The mobile phone has become your personal cinema. The third major change is that stories are able to travel seamlessly across geographies and across languages and cultures.

The second and third have impacted India the most. The ability to view on the smartphone has increased access from hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions. Indians from all regions, cultures and economic backgrounds are glued to their personal screen. The mobile revolution in India has put international quality entertainment within the reach of the poorest. What started with Netflx as a fad for the rich has now become food for the masses as Indian platforms like Hotstar, Jio, MX Player, Zee5 and Eros Now have risen to the occasion.

But the real icing on the cake is the change in the content itself. Real stories are ruling the roost. The world of fantasy is fast giving way to the underworld of “Sacred Games” and the harsh reality of “Delhi Crime”. Stories and writers are in great demand and the audience is maturing fast.

Does this mean that the stars will become Stardust? Probably not. They will coexist with the new world.

BOBBY BEDI has produced award winning cinema including Bandit Queen, Fire and Maqbool and is now producing web series for all the major domestic and international platforms.

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